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By Anne Holt

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The rescuer must have helped quite a lot of people before I gave a sudden start. ’ He was bending over me. His breath was burning against my cheek, and I think I smiled. Immediately after that he squatted down and examined my knees. Or rather my thigh, as I would soon learn. ‘Are you disabled? Are your legs crippled? ’ I didn’t have the strength to answer. ‘Johan,’ he shouted suddenly, without getting up. ’ He was no longer alone, then. I could hear the sound of an engine through the storm, and the gusts of wind from outside carried with them the faint smell of exhaust fumes.

Instead they are in love with a Jesus cliché, the good man in sandals with the velvety gaze and welcoming hands. Suffer little children to come unto me. I just can’t cope with it at all. I don’t want to be embraced. I want sulphurous sermons and threats of eternal flames. Give me priests and bishops with straight backs and burning eyes, give me implacability and condemnation and promises of punishment on the other side. I want a church that whips its congregation onward along the straight and narrow, and makes it crystal clear to the rest of the world that we are heading for eternal damnation.

It’s not exactly an everyday occurrence. ’ There was complete silence. But I knew he was still there. The smell of wood smoke and old wool was equally strong. ‘I asked you a question,’ I said quietly, keeping my eyes closed. ‘If you can’t answer, that’s fine, of course. ’ ‘The ostrich buries its head in the sand, as far as I know. ’ I gave an enormous yawn, still with my eyes closed. ‘Nobody can say I haven’t tried,’ said Geir Rugholmen sourly. ‘If you’re just going to sit here being awkward, well ...

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